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Actors making TV-directorial debuts

Actors making TV-directorial debuts — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael J. Fox, and others take a stab at behind-the-camera action

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What they really want to do is direct films, of course, but taking that behind-the-camera plunge on a big-screen theatrical release is a tad terrifying to some movie stars. That’s why so many actors are testing their directorial mettle on smaller, less intimidating TV projects — for instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger (whose first directing job was a 1990 episode of HBO’s TalesFrom the Crypt), Michael J. Fox (who did a Crypt episode in ’91), and Diane Keaton (an episode of ABC’s China Beach in ’90). As Tom Hanks (who, like Tom Cruise, directed an episode of Showtime’s Fallen Angels) recently put it: ”(TV movies) only take five days of shooting. And if it’s bad, well, it’s over in five days. And if it’s good, you get an awful lot of credit for doing it in only five days.” Some other movie actors who have discovered the joys of TV directing:

· Forest Whitaker (The Crying Game) is directing Strapped for HBO, a drama about a bicycle messenger (Bokeem Woodbine) who gets involved with drug and gun dealers. Airs Aug. 21.

· Kiefer Sutherland is directing Last Light for Showtime, about the friendship of a death-row inmate (Sutherland) and his guard (Forest Whitaker). Airs Aug. 22.

· Peter Weller (Robocop) is directing Partners, a 30 Minute Movie for Showtime, about interpersonal intrigue in a prestigious law firm. Airs next year.

· Laura Dern is directing The Gift, another 30 Minute Movie, about a woman getting over a tough romantic breakup. Airs next year.